- Social & Environmental
Five Years of Resettlement; Bui Residents Tell Their Story
By Dennis Peprah, GNA
Barely five years ago the Bui Power Authority (BPA), managers of the Bui hydro-electric dam in the Banda District of Brong-Ahafo Region resettled a total population of 1,216 fisher folks.
They live at the shoulders of the 400 megawatts power generation dam. In all seven villages including the Bui Camp, residence for the personnel of the Game and Wildlife that supervise the Bui National Park were affected. This was due to the inundation of about 444 km2 of land by the dam’s reservoir at its full supply level. Initially, the local fishermen and farmers, and their families, who occupied the shoulders of the Black Volta River, at the Bui gorge, were reluctant to vacate the area for the construction of the national asset.
Residents in the two resettlement townships namely Bongase in Brong-Ahafo Region and Jama in Northern Region attested that their living conditions have witnessed significant improvement.
“Hardly did I think and learnt our relocation would create an opportunity for improved access to public infrastructure,” a fisherman stated.
According to some of them, they never dreamt that their resettlement to the host communities would create opportunity for them to access modern social infrastructure and facilities such as health care and education, electricity, potable water, major roads, malls and modern latrines.
During a visit to the area, the Ghana News Agency (GNA) sighted communal facilities such as schools, community centres, boreholes as well as playing grounds, clinic and health centre at the resettlement townships near Bongase and in Jama. Access roads and drainage systems had also been completed in the resettlement areas. The sanitation in the area has also improved as residents who had to dig the ground, or attend nature’s call at bushes were now using biofil digester toilets. Technology has also advanced in the townships as digital satellite dishes that enable residents to access various television channels were seen erected on the roof of a number of households.
With the establishment of a Community Health-based Planning Services (CHPS) compound each at the two resettlement townships, the residents have easy access to improved healthcare delivery.
Speaking to the GNA during the visit, the locals indicated that though they have new challenges, their living conditions are better in their new settlements. Residents, however expressed concern that the Bui CHPS compound and the Jama Health Centre is being overwhelmed by the rapid population growth in the area.
The population growth could be attributed to the economic boom within the area with respect to the fishing industry. The construction of the Bui Dam created a reservoir, which is now the source of the economic boom in the environs of the dam. There were a handful of fisher folks among the 1,216 resettled people before the damming of the Black Volta River. Their economic activities impacted only a few people apart from their families. However with the creation of the Bui reservoir economic activities have increased with more than 7000 traders involved.
The main fishing economic activity trend hitherto was for fishermen to come back with their harvest to sell to fish mongers who sell them either fresh or smoked to customers. With the current fishing boom being experienced at the Bui area, the economic activities transcends fisher folks only, new business opportunities have emerged. These include transportation services, battery charging centres, food vendors, cloth sellers, petty trading, drinking spots, telecom airtime, mechanics, carpenters and even a rural bank and so many other commercial activities.
The fishmongers told the GNA in an interview that their business activities are flourishing but to the local fishermen complained that the influx of other colleagues to the communities is making fishing competitive. Another challenge was the regular shortages of premix fuel, a situation which according to them was affecting their businesses.
The Chief of Jama, Nana Kojo Pambo II, noted that the Bui dam has enhanced the livelihood of the local people because of the upsurge in business activities. He expressed the fear that because of the influx of fishermen to the area, the fish population in the reservoir would soon deplete. The commercial activities on the banks of the reservoir is however, said to have driven the fishes far into the reservoir where fishermen are unable to reach easily due to inadequate premix fuel. A moratorium is also placed on living on islands within the reservoir.
The BPA External and Community Relations Manager, Mr Wumbilla Salifu told the GNA the Authority appreciated the cooperation from the resettlement communities around the dam and assured the residents of its commitment to ensure improvement of their socio-economic well-being.
Mr Wumbila added that the Authority would ensure that basic social amenities are provided to make life worth living for the residents. He however expressed worry about the failure of some households at the Dokokyina village, which is few kilometres away to the dam site to relocate to the resettlement camp.